Available in 2018
Course code



10 units


6000 level

Course handbook


Traditionally, states have primarily sought to ensure that business entities operate in a socially and environmentally responsible manner by using a 'command and control' approach: that is, they have established legal rules and put in place inspectorates and courts to monitor compliance and punish non-compliance.

Globalisation has challenged this approach, and even for business activity wholly within state borders this model has not always proved effective. This course will critically consider the efficacy of legal and non-judicial alternatives, including: alternative legal structures for business (especially cooperatives), responsive regulation, multi-stakeholder initiatives, ethical investment and ethical consumerism. Case examples will focus on state and private initiatives designed to ensure that business entities respect employment rights and operate in an environmentally responsible manner.

Availability2018 Course Timetables

Newcastle City Precinct

  • Summer 1 - 2019

Replacing course(s)

This course replaces the following course(s): . Students who have successfully completed are not eligible to enrol in LAWS6108.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate advanced and integrated knowledge of different theoretical perspectives on the influence of business entities on respect for human rights and the environment.

2. Critically analyse and evaluate efforts by states to ensure that business entities respect human rights and the environment through judicial and state-based non-judicial mechanisms and by providing scope for alternative legal structures, such as cooperatives.

3. Critically analyse and evaluate efforts by business entities to implement human rights and environmental obligations, including through participation in non-state non-judicial mechanisms, such as multi-stakeholder initiatives.

4. Undertake specialised research into the impact of one or more global business entities on respect for human rights and on the appropriateness and/or effectiveness of efforts to regulate such impact.

5. Apply specialised knowledge of business-related human rights and/or environmental grievance mechanisms to draft a submission to such a grievance mechanism regarding a particular allegation of human rights abuse or environmental pollution (either on behalf of a business entity, an affected community, or non-government organisation).


The topics in this course include the following:

  1. Traditional approaches to regulating the social and environmental impact of business, and the way globalisation and other developments have challenged those traditional approaches
  2. Introduction; globalisation and international commerce - overview and historical developments
  3. Global Value Chains: what they are and why they matter to everyone everywhere
  4. The new global paradigm: the inevitable connections of countries within global value chains - harms and opportunities; the emergence of 'clusters'
  5. The role of law in global value chains; Corporate Social Responsibility - history, successes and shortcomings
  6. Corporate codes of conduct; social auditing; and multi-stakeholder initiatives
  7. Ethical investment and ethical consumerism: social labelling and rating schemes
  8. 'Soft law' approaches: the UN guiding principles on business and human rights, the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises and other state-based non-judicial mechanisms
  9. Responsive regulation - different models of board representation; involvement of public interest groups in negotiating rule-making and enforcement
  10. Alternative corporations - co-operatives, mutuals, benefit corporations and other types of legal models that seek to balance economic returns with social output
  11. Promoting co-operatives- ILO Recommendation 193 and the role of the international co-operative movement in the provision of 'decent work'
  12. Principled governance and 'philosophical' capital - understanding the role of the ICA's seven co-operative principles in building a unique legal identity for the co-operative business model
  13. Credit unions versus microfinance - legal models for financing grass-root economic development

Assessment items

Participation: Quality of contributions to in-class discussion

Written Assignment: Drafting exercise

Essay: Research Essay

Contact hours

Newcastle City Precinct


Face to Face On Campus 36 hour(s) per Term Full Term

The course may be delivered wholly in intensive mode; or in an equivalent combination of intensive and on-line delivery